Million Dollar Arm
Sports agent JB Bernstein's (Jon Hamm) business is hanging on signing Popo (Rey Maualuga) with a new low cost strategy cooked up with partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi, "The Internship"). It all looks good until Popo demands a million dollar signing bonus. Dejectedly watching television, JB comes across the sport Aash loves but he doesn't understand - cricket - and gets an idea - why not develop an unknown Indian cricket bowler into a pitcher. With coach consultant Tom House (Bill Paxton, HBO's 'Big Love,' "2 Guns") dubious, but funding from investor Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma, "The Quiet American"), JB travels to Mumbai to kick off a nationwide contest to find the "Million Dollar Arm."
Laura's Review: B
Genya Tachibana (Shozo Iizuka) is a documentary filmmaker thrilled to have been granted an interview with legendary screen actress Chiyoko Fujiwara (Fumiko Orikasa, Mami Koyama and Miyoko Shoji) three decades after she mysteriously withdrew from her career. He presents her with a gift - a key - which unlocks her memories and connects Genya to her past as she relates the history of a "Millennium Actress." Director/cowriter (with Sadayuki Murai, "Cowboy Bebop")/anime artist Satoshi Kon ("Perfect Blue") has developed a unique story structure that tells a mysterious love story within the history of Japan from the 15th century to the present as well as the history of a Japanese film studio. Tachibana and his cameraman Kyoji Ida (Masaya Onosaka) fancifully find themselves documenting Chiyoko's memories both as they happened and as they weave themselves in and out of the films she starred in. Chiyoko was born during Tokyo's Great Earthquake of 1923, which killed her father. Against her mother's wishes, she becomes an actress at a very young age, but it is the chance encounter with an injured painter (Kohichi Yamadera) wanted by government authorities that shapes her life. He leaves her with a key which she is determined to return, beginning a quest that haunts her as she runs from one historical adventure to the next, even taking a rocketship to the moon. As centuries change, from the Warring States Period of the 15th and 16th centuries to the Shogun years, through the Meiji Period of late 19th century and two World Wars, Chiyoko becomes a princess haunted by a castle wraith, a peasant girl, a ninja, an innocent, always fighting against older actress Eiko Shimao (Syouko Tsuda) and a man with a scar (Masane Tsukayama) while occasionally being saved by the adoring Genya. 'I cried 53 times at that scene,' says Genya as the elderly Chiyoko remembers. 'When did this become a movie?' asks Ida, who provides comical astonishment as he's whisked through history. Satoshi Kon emphasizes his heroine's running with her panting on the soundtrack, ultimately leading up to a montage of her running through a thousand years near film's end. Film sets appear to capture the different genres of Japanese filmmaking, the Samurai film, the costume drama, the 1950's family melodramas and even Godzilla flicks. In his most surreal moment, Chiyoko lands on the moon, her breathlessness echoing within the confines of her space helmet, to find a picture on an easel. Her beloved becomes animated, walking off into his own painted horizon, eluding her once more. Chiyoko is undeterred, however. 'After all, it's the chasing after him I really loved.' This wonderfully unique film is classic anime, but its story is so ingenious, it seems a genre unto itself. "Millennium Actress" requires attention to keep up with its movement throughout time and realities, but it will reward those do.
Robin's Review: DNS